Buoyed by a breakthrough season in the world’s premier and most fiercely-disputed tin-top series last year, Speedworks Motorsport has set its sights on its maiden victory and Independents’ glory after re-signing highly-rated young gun Tom Ingram for the 2016 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship campaign.
Up against a supremely high calibre of opposition in 2015, Speedworks tallied an impressive 23 points finishes from 30 starts – 18 of them inside the top ten. At Rockingham in September, Ingram duelled energetically for the lead with two-time champion Jason Plato behind the wheel of his heavily-revised Toyota Avensis, with the runner-up spoils representing the Northwich, Cheshire-based outfit’s first podium in its 132nd start in the immensely popular, ITV4 live-televised, all-action BTCC.
Bringing the crowd to its feet, the mesmerising scrap was voted the most exciting of the season, and just over a month later, Ingram returned to the rostrum in the Brands Hatch GP finale with another outstanding second place, earning Speedworks ninth position amongst the 19 contenders in the overall Teams’ standings and fourth spot out of 15 in the Independent Teams’ Trophy.
Having secured the 22-year-old British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) SuperStar’s signature for another year, a comprehensive pre-season testing programme is now planned – a luxury the team has hitherto been unable to afford.
Before that, however, the Avensis will be exhibited in an interim colour scheme at the Autosport International show at Birmingham’s NEC from 14-17 January, prior to a full livery unveil at the traditional Season Launch at Donington Park on 22 March. Speedworks’ second car – a Honda Civic Type R for BTCC newcomer Matt Simpson – will similarly be on display on the Dunlop stand. Ahead of his squad’s sixth season in the championship, team principal Christian Dick is in bullish mood.
“2015 was our most successful campaign to-date in the BTCC, but we’re far from content to sit on our laurels and we need to make sure we continue pushing if we want to keep on moving forward and accomplish our objectives,” he asserted.
“A shortage of pre-season testing – due to lack of budget or deals coming together too late – has been an Achilles’ heel of ours over the past couple of years and left us somewhat on the back foot, but hopefully 2016 will be a different story and the aim is to get up-to-speed nice and early so we can really hit the ground running. There are a lot of new parts to get to grips with, so the more track time we can get, the better.
“With Geoff Kingston at the helm on the engineering side, we took a sizeable step forward in 2015, and there is still plenty of untapped potential in the Avensis. We resolved the tyre degradation issues over a race distance that had hampered us so much the previous year, to the extent where the car is now stronger on Sundays than Saturdays.
“As soon as we left Brands Hatch back in October, attentions turned towards this year and all the boys have put in a colossal effort over the winter to ensure we go into 2016 in the best shape we can possibly be. I’m so proud of every single one of them. There is such a close bond inside this team and everybody pulls together – we go about our business with minimal fuss, keep our heads down and work hard and that is reflected in the results.
“Of course, none of that would be achievable without having the right pedaller inside the cockpit, and in that respect, we have absolutely no concerns. Jason Plato described Tom as world-class after their battle at Rockingham last year, and I would not disagree – the kid is a champion in-waiting in my eyes.
“He has grown tremendously as a driver since joining the BTCC two years ago, and his form at the end of last season was superb. His raw speed has never been in doubt, and his racecraft is now amongst the best in the business – as Rockingham proved, he’s not afraid of getting stuck in and going wheel-to-wheel with anybody else on the grid. Reputations don’t faze him at all.
“Tom shares our approach and he shares our goals. We have made it very clear from the outset that we are not here to make up the numbers; we are here to win – races and ultimately championships. We regard 2016 as the next phase of that journey, and having established ourselves as consistent top ten contenders last year, we now need to be targeting consistent podiums and our first race victory. If we can do that, a tilt at the Independents’ trophy won’t be too far away.”
Indeed, after an eye-catching sophomore season, Ingram was the subject of several advances, meaning Speedworks had to head off a number of rival teams’ overtures to hang onto its talented protégé, who will be entering his third consecutive BTCC campaign with the plucky independent outfit in 2016.
“For me, it was an absolute no-brainer to stay with Speedworks,” the KX Akademy graduate and MSA Academy member explained. “The team’s work ethic is second-to-none; everybody is ultra-professional, but at the same time they know how to have fun, which is important – this is hardly a cheap sport, so you need to make sure you’re enjoying it or else you might as well not bother.
“The second half of last year was hugely positive for us, and it was encouraging to see all the development that we had put in paying off. Our performance just got better and better, which shone through in the results with two podiums from the last three race weekends. From our point of view, the season ended too soon because we were on a roll!
“We only really scratched the surface in 2015 of what we can achieve with this car – although the first half obviously wasn’t what we had been hoping for, we dug deep and turned it around in style. There is a lot more to come from the Avensis yet, and I genuinely believe we can be a force to be reckoned with this year.”